The U.S. oil and natural gas rig count fell this week to its lowest in nearly a year, as gas rigs slumped by the most in a week since February 2016, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said in its closely followed report on May 12.

The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, fell by 17 to 731 in the week to May 12, the lowest since June 2022. The weekly drop was the biggest since June 2020.

Baker Hughes said that puts the total rig count up only 17, or 2%, over this time last year.

U.S. oil rigs fell by two to 586 this week, their lowest since June 2022, while gas rigs plunged by 16 to 141, their lowest April last year.

U.S. oil futures were down about 13% so far this year after gaining about 7% in 2022. U.S. gas futures, meanwhile, have plunged about 49% so far this year after rising about 20% last year.

The drop in gas prices has already caused some exploration and production companies, including Chesapeake Energy Corp, Southwestern Energy Co and Comstock Resources Inc, to announce plans to reduce production by cutting some gas rigs - especially in the Haynesville shale in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

Despite some plans to lower rig counts, U.S. crude production was still on track to rise from 11.9 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2022 to a new record high of 12.5 million bbl/d in 2023 and 12.7 million bbl/d in 2024, according to projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in May. The last record output was hit in 2019 at 12.3 million bbl/d.

U.S. gas production, meanwhile, was on track to rise from a record 98.13 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) in 2022 to 101.09 bcfd in 2023 and 101.24 bcfd in 2024, according to EIA's projection.